Tuesday, May 9, 2017


'I wonder as I wander.' For some people, it's more a case of, 'I wander as I wonder.' For others -- far too many, in fact -- it's simply, 'I wander as I wander.'

A new study from the University of Waterloo set out to see whether a short bout of mindfulness training might help focus the minds of people who are clinically anxious.

‘Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals,’ said study author Mengran Xu, pictured right, in a statement. ‘We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand.’

Previous studies have found that mindfulness meditation can quell the mind’s tendency to wander, by quieting a region of the brain known as the default mode network (DMN)the part of the brain that’s ‘on’ when our minds are just wandering about. Other studies have shown its physical effects on the brain over time, not the least of which is its connection to greater volume in areas like the hippocampus, which in part governs emotion regulation (and is smaller in depressed people) and reduced volume in the amygdala, which plays a central role in stress and fear. And a study last month found that the two classic forms of meditation, focused attention and open monitoring, have the capacity to reduce the number of ‘intrusive’ thoughts people had when they were asked to conjure up a personal fear.

Study: Xu M, Purdon C, Seli P and Smilek D. Mindfulness and mind wandering: The protective effects of brief meditation in anxious individuals.’ Consciousness and Cognition. Volume 51, May 2017, pp 157-165.


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